Vueling CEO sees 186-seat A320 without loss of pitch


Airbus has yet to announce how it will go about recertifying the A320 for 186 seats, but one operator of the type is hopeful this can be achieved without reducing seat pitch.

Alex Cruz, chief executive of Barcelona-based A320 operator Vueling, tells Runway Girl Network that he is “very attracted by the idea of increasing the numbers of seats by the implementation of the Airbus Space-Flex solution”, adding: “We hope that this feature will be certified soon.”

Vueling, a subsidiary of British Airways and Iberia parent company IAG, last August placed a firm order for 30 A320s and 32 A320neos, with options on a further 58 A320-family aircraft.

The Spanish carrier has been pushing for an extra row of seats to be made available as an option on the A320, but Cruz does not believe Airbus will achieve this by reducing seat pitch.

“We do see Airbus introducing the Space-Flex feature, which removes the two toilets at the back, putting them as part of the galley in the back, therefore achieving two things: adding an extra row, six seats; and providing additional space to actually increase the pitch of the last 15 rows of the aircraft,” he says.

“We are always working with Airbus to drive innovation in the 320 family and we are happy that they are finally able to push this particular feature for certification.”

Adds Cruz: “Recently, [Airbus] made some small changes to allow a bit more space from the emergency exits to the front of the aircraft, so today we offer four rows of extra pitch and the rest are standard.

“Removing toilets at the back is about another row and a little bit more space to be redistributed between the back rows. This is key to the product.”

An Airbus spokesman says the manufacturer is “not going to discuss how a particular airline would arrange its internal seating product”. He adds that Airbus is unable to immediately provide any general comment on the A320 recertification plan because it is preparing to host a group of journalists for its ‘Innovation Day’.

The fact that Airbus has not disclosed how it will add the extra six seats means it has not discounted the possibility of reducing seat pitch below the current bare minimum of 28 inches, a scenario that remains a very real possibility in the industry at large.

Ultra slimline economy class seat concepts that could accommodate a 27-inch pitch are under development at Zodiac Aerospace. So it looks like a case of watch this (ever-decreasing) space.

(Photo courtesy of Vueling on Instagram)